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Burial Rites | [Hannah Kent]

Burial Rites

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district office Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.
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Publisher's Summary

Longlisted – Baileys Women’s Prize 2014

They said I must die. They said that I stole the breaths from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke.

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district office Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.

Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, in which every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

©2013 Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd (P)2013 Hannah Kent

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What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (45 )
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 (17)
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3 star
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2 star
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4.1 (40 )
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4.4 (40 )
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  •  
    colleen 04-21-14
    colleen 04-21-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bleak but enthralling"
    If you could sum up Burial Rites in three words, what would they be?

    I was taken in by the main character and wanted to hear her story as much as she wanted to tell it.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Burial Rites?

    I could have cried when Agnes realized what kind of man Natan was.


    Which character – as performed by Morven Christie – was your favorite?

    I enjoyed the two girls and the way they gave some relief from the intensity and bleakness of the novel.


    If you could take any character from Burial Rites out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Margret. I would like to hear more of her thoughts. She also had a death sentence of a different kind.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    San Rafael, CA 04-06-14 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    47
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Slow, maudlin, w overly earnest, breathy narration"
    What would have made Burial Rites better?

    More social history. More plot. Less trite characters.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Hannah Kent again?

    No


    Would you be willing to try another one of Morven Christie’s performances?

    No


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I had thought the novels depiction of atypical time and place would be interesting; It wasn't.


    Any additional comments?

    In fairness, I could only get through half the book. I almost always finish books hoping they'll get better but in this case I made an exception.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    vanessa mount isa, Australia 02-22-14
    vanessa mount isa, Australia 02-22-14 Member Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    59
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "an ok story beautifully narrated"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Burial Rites to be better than the print version?

    Undoubtedly. The story itself, though well written is a bit disappointing. There is a lot of build up but it doesn't end up leading anywhere. I might not have continued to the end if it weren't for the wonderful narration.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    The detail of life in 1800's Iceland was infinitely more interesting than the story itself.


    What about Morven Christie’s performance did you like?

    EVERYTHING. This is actually the second book I have bought from Audible with Morven Christie narrating, though I didn't notice at first as the other performance was very different and in a Scottish accent. Each character's voice is distinct and clear, when they story says they sound tired or anxious, they do. I will definitely be listening to any future offerings by this narrator.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leah Pinjarra, Australia 01-25-14
    Leah Pinjarra, Australia 01-25-14

    Living and learning one story at a time :)

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Worth stepping out of your comfort zone"
    Would you listen to Burial Rites again? Why?

    Yes, I'd like to listen again to pick up on some of the smaller details/descriptions


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Agnes, the character really drew me in.


    Which character – as performed by Morven Christie – was your favorite?

    Agnes. Morven Christie is an amazing performer. As Agnes her often breathy tone really brought across the feeling of despair. All of the characters are done well. You hardly notice a change in her voice yet it sounds like different people are reading.


    If you could rename Burial Rites, what would you call it?

    Hmm not sure.


    Any additional comments?

    I bought this book purely based on the fact that Morven Christie was the narrator. I hadn't heard of it before and probably wouldn't have given it a second glance otherwise. I was not at all familiar with the real life event and found this work to be quite surprising and very interesting. I'm now off to google it to learn more :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 09-02-13
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 09-02-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    131
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    191
    77
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Simply fantastic!"

    I cannot write a review that can do this book justice. This is what goes through my head:

    * I am so happy I give few books five stars, because then when I run into a book this good my five star rating means something!

    * You need a strong stomach for this book. I have warned you.

    * Once you start you will not be able to read or do anything else.

    * There is NO humor in this book. I always need humor, except NOT here. Don't ask me why! I just didn't need it. I was riveted from start to finish. I needed to understand the relationships that lie at the core of what happened. I was so focused on understanding the why, I didn't have any need for humor. Humor simply doesn't belong in this book. This is Nordic historical fiction of times long past - there is hunger and cold and darkness. That is the way it was. And people living in such difficult times did such twisted things.

    * The book is NOT spooky, it is atmospheric.

    * The writing! Similes, metaphors - they are all just perfect. Stunning writing.

    * You will be moved. Jeez, at the end...... No, not just at the end, all the way through.

    * And this is very important. Do not read this book. Please, if you possibly can, listen to it. The narration by Morven Christie is totally fantastic. The Icelandic is perfect. The tempo is slow and it must be slow, so you can think about what is being said, so you feel the doom and darkness of the events. This is an excellently written book AND excellently narrated. BOTH!

    Phew, after this I don't want another Nordic drama for a long time. My emotions cannot take it. I have been through a wringer with this one.

    I assume you have read the book description, so you know that this story is based on true events. There is a chapter at the end that explains all the research involved. The author closely follows what is known. There are different views of Agnes' behavior, but the author has totally convinced my of what her study of the facts have lead her to believe.

    This is one of the best books I have read/listened to this year.

    **************************************

    After half:
    I have listened to half now. I still absolutely love it. It has love too. One of the few authors that can feed me a love story and please me immensely. I am convinced Agnes did not kill the man she is accused of killing. But history says she is beheaded for this reason. Remember this is Nordic historical fiction! Now I will say no more. I don't know what will happen in the rest of the book, so I cannot possibly give a spoiler.

    You read this book for the marvelous atmosphere and the lines. Gorgeous lines! A superb writer.

    *****************************


    After 6 chapters:
    This book is beautifully written. Atmospheric. Nordic historical fiction at its best. The narration by Morven Christie is wonderful too. Don't read it, listen to it. I have only listened to 6 chapters, but there is no way this book can get anything but 5 stars.

    Hannah Kent is Australian, mentored by Geraldine Brooks! This book is far better than any I have read by Geraldine Brooks, and I am not disparaging Brooks when I say that.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-5 of 5 results
Sort by:
  • Milly
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    3/3/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Incredibly Moving"
    If you could sum up Burial Rites in three words, what would they be?

    Haunting, gripping, tragic


    What other book might you compare Burial Rites to, and why?

    I don't think this is quite like anything else I've come across. It's gripping, you want to know what has happened but there's a sense of doom hanging over it. The landscape is described so beautifully you can really imagine what it might have been like to be there, which makes it all the more unbearable at points.


    Which character – as performed by Morven Christie – was your favourite?

    Agnes, although they are all performed beautifully.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is incredibly powerful and very moving, if you are looking for something light or cheerful then this really isn't for you right now.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Kaggy
    Kent, United Kingdom
    6/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Agnes - understanding the human being"

    If Agnes were alive today she probably would have graduated from university and be pursuing a professional and fulfilling career. Instead she had the misfortune of being born into abject poverty two centuries ago and into a community of subsistence farmers forced to scratch a meager living from one of the bleakest environments on earth. The story begins when she is made to live with a family of farmers while awaiting execution for the murder of her lover, Natan.

    This is a true story and anybody who knows the history will know the outcome of the tale. This novel however, kept me on the edge of my seat because as we all know, what actually happened rarely equates with the conclusions of the court. The author spins a credible tale of a woman who falls desparately in love with a charismatic but flawed man. Natan is intelligent and gifted and capable of doing great good in his community, but he is also manipulative and fond of toying with people to ultimately dangerous levels. This all develops into a heady story of passion and greed and the inevitable ending is truly shocking.

    There are some dreadful characters in this tale but there are also people capable of great understanding and humanity despite their knowledge of the murders. This meant that there were aspects of the story that were uplifting despite the tragic subject matter. I had never heard of Agnes before and so am grateful to the author for bringing her fascinating story to life. I recommend this book to anybody who wants to read an intelligent dramatisation of an important piece of Icelandic history.

    Morven Christie reads this beautifully. I could listen to her rendition of Icelandic poetry in the original language for hours.



    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • ingrid
    Worcester, United Kingdom
    1/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A stunning story beautifully read"
    If you could sum up Burial Rites in three words, what would they be?

    Moving, atmospheric, haunting and beautifully read


    What other book might you compare Burial Rites to, and why?

    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This had the same feel of impending doom and inevitability seen through the eyes of the subject.


    Have you listened to any of Morven Christie’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No, but I will look for her narrations in future, her voice perfectly captured the dark bleak Icelandic existance 200 years ago.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Definitely.


    Any additional comments?

    The way the story and the ambiguous character of Agnes unfurled was gripping despite knowing the ultimate outcome. As the listener I was shocked and moved by the harrowing conditions both the Icelandic farmers and servants existed under.The epilogue and authors notes were useful and informative, perhaps raising more questions than answers.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Vivienne
    Esporles, Spain
    5/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful research, hypnotic, and different"
    Any additional comments?

    This wasn't a page turner but I really needed to know the outcome. The narrator was very good and reading as the main character her voice took on a hypnotic, flat quality. It was strangely soothing. Some of the facts I learned about Iceland were very enlightening. I enjoyed it for very different reasons to the "normal" books I read.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jessica
    Warminster, United Kingdom
    2/27/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Holmchappell"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is a superb piece of writing; a profound and intriguing story, based on truth but so well told as fiction.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It excels in its authenticity, carefully drawn characters and Kent's exploration of a theme with real gravitas. It's clear she immersed herself in this tale and the gorgeous richness of her writing pulls us in with her.


    Which character – as performed by Morven Christie – was your favourite?

    All the characters are superbly fleshed out with deep and thoughtful insight.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This is a book that wraps itself around you and draws you into a world imagined in minute detail. I was there, throughout.


    Any additional comments?

    I listen to a lot of audio-books and I would lay money on this being in the five star listens for 2014. If it isn't, it's a FIX!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jenny
    United Kingdom
    10/28/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A moving and well-woven story"
    Any additional comments?

    Burial Rites is a beautifully and sensitively written and told story based in historical fact. The author has woven a magical atmosphere that allows the listener to completely immerse themselves in the lives of the characters and the settings in which they experience their difficult lives.

    Agnes' character is carefully and sympathetically crafted and unfolds gradually as the story progresses, always leading the listener further and further into her tale. Alongside this, there is the simple, loyal and honest Steiner who I would like to get know better, and her sister Leica who doesn't seem to me to be the beauty that she is described as.

    Morven Christie's narration is a tad too slow for my liking, but her softly spoken manner matches the nature of the narrative perfectly. This is the first of her narrations that I have had the pleasure of listening to and I found her voice to be soothing despite the sometimes difficult material - a combination of narrator and story which together create an almost daydream like experience.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Maureen
    Kirby Muxloe, United Kingdom
    7/31/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Left me in tears"

    Such a beautifully written book that I just couldn't do anything while I listened. Characters were really well developed and their interactions so believable.
    Normally I listen to books so that I can get on with practical tasks that don't need too much attention, but with this book I just had to sit and listen.
    The setting was beautifully described and I felt the pain of the poor paupers and homesteaders in the bleak conditions that were so hard for their existence.
    This has to be the best book that I have read this year.
    Superb, thought provoking , riveting and just so sad!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rachel
    Stoke on TrentUnited Kingdom
    4/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A slow burner, but all the better for it"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Burial Rites to be better than the print version?

    I haven't read the print version, but it made a good listen. The only drawback was trying to imagine how the Icelandic names and place-names look in print.


    What other book might you compare Burial Rites to, and why?

    Oddly, it's a bit like Wolf Hall. Shorter, less literary perhaps, but with the same strong characterisation based firmly in the historical context.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a terrific story, and the setting offers so many insights into the way that hard lives were lived in a frequently hostile environment. The tension builds slowly, until the final acts are almost unbearably sad. The development of the relationships between the convicted murderess and her 'hosts' is beautifully drawn. And the reading is great. Thanks.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alison
    Cambridge, United Kingdom
    3/31/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A gripping listen beautifully read"
    Would you listen to Burial Rites again? Why?

    I don't normally listen to books twice but the character development and soothing voice of the narrator means that I would consider it here.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Burial Rites?

    It is the story' profession and character development that will stay with me and the gentleness of the way the last scenes are played out. I feel that I have come away with a much deeper understanding and respect for the Icelandic culture and a fascination to know more about the county and it's history. Beautifully research.


    What does Morven Christie bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    The way that difficult names and quotations were pronounced put me in the country. I would not have got this by skipping over difficult parts myself. Her measured delivery was do different from my fast pace of skip reasons and added hugely to the sense of place.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was particularly moved by Agnes when she opened up to the sick mother and by the solemnity of the final procession and the gentleness of rugged farmers offering sprits for Dodi to give to Agnes.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • john
    Bentham
    1/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "echoes of the sagas, sad story beutifully told"

    This is the story of Agnes, orphan labourer around the farms of Northern Iceland circa 1830. It is beautifully written and drips with vivid details of the life on the edge of the arctic and the known world. Condemned to die, Agnes is sent to Jon's farm to await the sentence and through the family reaction to her we slowly hear about the events she was part of, all revolving from her love for the toxic Natan Ketilson. I will always think of their love scene as a benchmark in really great writing.

    Eight hundred years have passed since the sagas but the world Agnes lived in has hardly changed since the great stories of Njal and Egil. Anyone interested in the Icelandic sagas should read this.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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